EXCHANGE: Preparation Process
I have been getting a lot of questions lately from students back home regarding the preparation process for studying abroad. I know this process can be quite stressful and I'm really glad that there were students kind enough to help me get through it all when I was planning it all out! Therefore, it is my turn to return the favour and help the next ones out.
To make it all simpler, I've listed the process in easy to follow steps below.
1. IT BEGINS...
You've been accepted into an institution abroad! Congrats! You've made it through the interviews, begging teachers for recommendation and long hours writing your letter of intent. You've got some time to plan it all out, but it all comes quicker than expected. There are several things you need to consider like getting your student VISA, finding accommodation, application to the institution itself... All steps which I have listed below.
2. GETTING YOUR STUDENT VISA
Spain requires a student VISA for all students who get accepted into a Spanish institution. I applied for this as soon as possible given that you must book an appointment and it can sometimes take a few weeks before a spot opens up. To book an appointment you can visit their website.
For this you will need several documents:
- A valid passport
- Proof of being admitted to an educational institution authorized in Spain, on a full-time program, leading to a degree or certificate.
- Overseas medical insurance coverage (minimum: 30.000€).
- Proof of financial reliability (Bank statements, scholarships, etc. A minimum amount of CAN $ 1.000 per month of stay is required.)
- Proof of accommodation: Confirmation letter from the Academic Institution indicating the conditions of your accommodation.
- Cash to pay the VISA fee. Only cash is accepted (My fee was $125.00 for Canadian citizens)
3. APPLYING FOR THE MEESR BURSARY
I don't know about the bursaries in other universities, but with Concordia, the MEESR bursary is offered to all students who are accepted into the program. The money will only be provided to you once abroad, however, they will provide you with an official document for the Spanish Consulate proving you will be receiving funding from them. This is important for the VISA since you need to prove financial reliability.
4. LET YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE KNOW YOU ARE LEAVING
Make sure you let your insurance know you are going abroad, where and for how long. Make sure they cover you while abroad and will cover the necessities. This is a sensitive subject, but make sure they cover Repatriation of Remains, as this is very costly!
5. FIND YOURSELF ACCOMMODATION
I decided to live in the student residence hall and had to apply early to reserve a spot. I kindly asked for an official document to show the Spanish Consulate as proof of accommodation and they provided it to me very quickly. The residence hall program I chose was "full board" which includes all meals. The monthly fee is 710 euros + 10% tax (total of 780 euros). I realize this is very expensive and most students get an apartment in the city instead. However, I got to meet a lot of amazing friends by living in the residence hall and wouldn't trade the experience for anything else.
6. GET INFORMED ABOUT YOUR HOST INSTITUTION
At Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, they have a page of their website dedicated to incoming students that helped me out a lot for the process. You should look to see if your host institution has a similar page. If you are going to study at UC3M as well, here is the link: http://portal.uc3m.es/portal/page/portal/international/students/exchange. On this page, they guided me through the process and were available to answer all questions I had.
7. YOU HAVE YOUR VISA, WHAT'S NEXT?
At this point if you haven't booked your flights yet, you should probably get on it! I booked mine quite late, but still got a pretty good deal! I bought a round-trip ticket because I already knew the exact date of my return and it cost me around $750.
8. PACK YOUR BAGS
Time passes and sooner of later you've got to start packing for this adventure. I was packing for 5 months and had no clue where to begin. I used this list from HerCampus.com to help me out!
9. REGISTER FOR CLASSES
The period of registration only started a couple days before classes started and most of the classes I wanted to take were already full and I had to change my plans a little. I ended up registering for 3 electives and one marketing class.
10. GET OUT THERE
Once you've arrived in your new 'home', you may experience some homesickness because of the new environment and the feeling of being alone. Make sure you get out there and meet new people to make your experience epic! If you want some tips on what to do to pass time, you can read this article I posted earlier in the semester.
11. FINALLY.. SOME PERSONAL RECOMMENDATIONS
- BRING ALL THE ESSENTIALS: When packing your bags, bring everything you could possibly need (with moderation obviously): I brought shampoo, conditioner, soap, personal hygiene products, medication, towels, bed linens... Many things I knew I would need during my 5 month stay. For most, I haven't had to buy more and therefore saved on expenses while here. Also, I will not be brining the towels back or the linens and obviously won't be bringing back empty shampoo bottles, which leaves space in my luggage for all the souvenirs or anything that you may have purchased during your exchange!
- MAKE A (TENTATIVE) BUDGET BEFORE YOU LEAVE: Try to plan out how much you would be spending on rent and living expenses and then set a budget for travels. The worse thing that can happen if that you get towards the end of your exchange and run out of money!
- OPEN YOUR MIND: For the first ever (for most of us) we are living abroad with lots of new people and opportunities. Keep an open mind and take on life as it comes. The unexpected is always more fun! Take this amazing opportunity to learn about yourself, the ones around you and the city/country where you will be living. Try new things, make a bucket list and...
- HAVE FUN! But don't forget to study ;) Remember, you're there to study!
If you have any questions regarding something I didn't include here, don't hesitate to send me an email and I will gladly answer you the best I can!